Logo for the Center for Victims of Torture
Notes from the Ground

CVT World, May 2024

Published May 14, 2024

Welcome to the May 2024 issue of CVT World, CVT’s periodic compilation of the latest news, stories and public activities from our team.

Efforts in Support of Human Rights in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

“What those in Gaza are experiencing right now cannot be described as ‘post-traumatic’ in any sense of the term. Instead, we can best describe the current situation as ongoing and continuous traumatic threat.” CVT published this statement titled, “Trauma Across Generations: Mental Health Impacts of the Israel-Palestine Conflict,” taking a clinical look at the impacts of the ongoing conflict.

“World Press Freedom Day (May 3) should be celebrated with a black armband this year,” said Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO, in this article in InterPress Service about the numbers of journalists killed in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He said, “With almost 100 journalists and media workers now dead, to claim these deaths are accidental is not only incredulous, it is insulting to the memory of professionals who lived their lives in service of truth and accuracy.”

“We’re going to see the impact of this for a lifetime, and it’s going to be incredibly detrimental to see how we just chose to turn our backs against this population,” said Yumna Rizvi, CVT senior policy analyst, quoted in this article in Huffington Post about the call below urging President Biden to reinstate funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

CVT signed this letter to President Biden and congressional leaders, urging passage of legislation to reinstate funding to UNRWA. Yumna Rizvi provided this quote as part of the submission: “The world is watching and will not soon forget the callousness of the United States’ refusal to fund UNRWA’s crucial aid for Palestinians during this catastrophic and deadly conflict. As the U.S. fails to act, children and families are being displaced in shocking numbers, and generations are experiencing the trauma of displacement, death, starvation and lack of medical care while trying to survive ongoing destruction and loss of lives. This is a moral failure.”

The world is watching and will not soon forget the callousness of the United States’ refusal to fund UNRWA’s crucial aid for Palestinians during this catastrophic and deadly conflict.”

Yumna Rizvi, CVT senior policy analyst

CVT also joined this letter to Congress, calling for a block on unconditional support for the Israel military after appropriating $14 billion in aid without conditions for human rights. The authors write, “We urge Congress to exercise its oversight authority and withhold any lethal military aid that can be used to commit violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

CVT endorsed the “UNRWA Funding Emergency Restoration Act of 2024” calling for restoration of the United States’ funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian Refugees. The authors include U.S. Representatives Carson, Jayapal and Raskin, who write, “The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached a catastrophic emergency level, with two million Palestinian civilians suffering daily due to escalating conflict and deprivation.” A petition in support of the act can be found here.

Announcement: Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell Promoted to Vice President of Advancement

CVT announced the promotion of Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell to the position of vice president of advancement, a role in which she’ll be responsible for the organization-wide strategy for sustaining and expanding revenue and leading CVT’s talented fundraising team. Simon Adams congratulated Fawn, saying, “She brings extensive experience in fundraising and knowledge of the expanse of our global work, as well as a deep commitment to our clients and the challenging work of all our colleagues.” Fawn said, “I am excited to take this next step with the Center for Victims of Torture; our work is needed now more than ever, and I look forward to continuing a role in reaching as many survivors of torture as possible.”

I am excited to take this next step with the Center for Victims of Torture; our work is needed now more than ever, and I look forward to continuing a role in reaching as many survivors of torture as possible.”

Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell, CVT vice president of advancement

Serial Podcast Series about Guantánamo – and a Thank You to CVT

Serial Podcast Episode 8 covers the case of Majid Kahn, survivor of U.S. torture and former Guantánamo detainee. Alison Beckman, senior clinician for external relations, provided Serial producers with information about the traumatic impacts of torture; she and CVT are thanked at the end of this episode.

After a Lifetime of Compounded Trauma, Southeast Asian Deportees Need a Path to Healing

To honor Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage month, Frances Nguyen, contributing writer, brings forth an often overlooked aspect of the lives of refugees and asylum seekers who come to the U.S.: Deportation impacts mental health, and gaps in related services for these survivors remain. As supportive organizations work together in coalition, these problems are being addressed. Read the article here.

Care for Caregivers: A Panel on Self-Care and Wellbeing for Practitioners

“No one is born ready to work in high trauma fields,” said Liyam Eloul, CVT clinical advisor for mental health. “We need ongoing training and support to build those muscles, keep our baseline functioning high enough, keep building our own resilience.” Liyam spoke on a panel for the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) called “Care for Caregivers.” The event focused on self-care for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) practitioners who work with survivors of torture. Read the article here.

No one is born ready to work in high trauma fields.”

Liyam Eloul, CVT clinical advisor for mental health

Marginalized Communities at Increased Risk for Sexual Assault

To honor Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in April, we published this article about how marginalized communities, including refugees, are at a disproportionate risk for this type of violence. Author Zuri White-Gibson, CVT communications strategist, writes, “While these rates are staggering on their own, these numbers only increase when you add intersectional identities. This includes considerations like refugee status, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity or involvement with the carceral system.”

A Measure of Justice for Survivors of Abu Ghraib Torture

“The fight for justice does not end with this case. There is much more still that needs to be done.” On the 20th anniversary of the disclosure of the grim photos of torture perpetrated at Abu Ghraib prison, Yumna Rizvi wrote this op ed piece for Al Jazeera about the significance of this trial and the opportunity for justice. She writes, “Torture is about intentionally breaking the human – mind, body, and spirit; it doesn’t end when the acts stop. That is why telling the story matters.”

CVT Announces Groundbreaking Study for Clients Who Suffer from Chronic Pain

CVT has launched a randomized control trial on the impact of trauma-informed and culturally-responsive integrated massage therapy (TCI-Massage) on pain, sleep and heart health. This care will be offered to refugee and asylum seeker clients in CVT clinics in St. Paul, Minn. This innovative study is unique, and the team notes “there is no evidence-based guidance on massage therapy for populations who have experienced severe trauma and are linguistically diverse.” Read the press release here.

Human Rights Violations Reported within Minnesota Civil Commitment Program

Mitchell Hamline’s Sex Offense Litigation & Policy Resource Center in St. Paul released a report sharply critical of the Minnesota civil commitment program for sex offenders, a program with practices that amount to indefinite detention. According to the report, the program fails to reduce incidents of sexual violence while violating detainees’ human rights, including through the practice of indefinite detention. CVT served as an advisor to the report. The story was covered here in the Star Tribune.

Working in Coalition with Partners

Working with partners brings strength to CVT’s policy advocacy. In recent weeks, we participated in numerous actions that support survivors of torture. Below are some of these coalition and partner actions.

  • CVT joined this letter to the special representative for Guantanamo affairs at the U.S. State Department, calling for the detention facility to be shut down permanently. Notably, in addition to human rights organizations, more than 2,300 individuals signed the letter. The authors write, “We oppose the unconstitutional use of indefinite detention and call for the State Department to financially and diplomatically address the concerns of former detainees.”
  • CVT joined 200 non-governmental organizations in this letter to President Biden, expressing outrage about the administration’s changes in course that have increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. The authors write, “Detention should not be about politics. It is about human lives, and its use has devastating consequences for the people who endure it.” The story was covered here in The Hill.
  • Success! CVT joined a letter to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), urging them to publish guidance that clearly provides for continuation of ORR services for Ukrainians applying for re-parole. And this continuation was granted. The authors noted in the letter that parole periods for thousands of Ukrainians could have reached their end, which would have resulted in loss of important benefits, legal assistance and services.
  • CVT signed this letter to the heads of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), urging them not to renew a contract with Torrance County Detention Facility in New Mexico. Since 2019, there have been numerous reports of human rights abuses at the center, and the Office of the Inspector General stated in 2022 that no immigrants should be detained there.

Follow CVT on Social Media and Keep up with the Latest News

Do you want to keep up with the latest from CVT? Be sure to follow us on social media.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn
And don’t forget our colleagues’ pages!
New Tactics – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok
New Tactics MENA – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
CVT Georgia – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
CVT St. Cloud – Facebook
CVT Jordan – Facebook
CVT Iraq – Facebook, Instagram
HealTorture – Facebook, Twitter

Share this Article

Related Articles